Make Your League More Fun (Part 1) – Points Points Points

Add some excitement to your league by expanding your points categories.

It’s the first game of Opening Day and you’ve never been so excited. Your first hitter to go is an on-base machine, racking up multiple walks. He also puts down a gorgeous sac bunt to move runners to second and third in a key situation. Topping it off, he throws out a runner at home to save the game.

Thrilled with the performance you just witnessed, you check your stats on the ol’ fantasy machine. Surely you’ve jumped out to a comfortable lead over your opponent!

And then, it hits you – you’re in a 5×5 Rotisserie. So the stat line for your hitter is this: .000 AVG, 0 R, 0 RBI, 0 SB, 0 HR.

Next, your starting pitcher toes the rubber. He has a decent game with a few K’s and a few runs earned, but the highlight is a sweet pickoff move that ends the 6th and gives him a Quality Start. He leaves with a decent lead but the relievers blow it.

Now, your pitching line is this: 4.50 ERA, 5 K’s, 0 W, 1.25 WHIP, 0 SV.

Wait a minute, you think, my players did way more than what these stats are showing. Shouldn’t they get more credit for their accomplishments?

The simple answer is yes, yes they should. And if you agree, welcome to a points league. But not just any kind of points league, as you’ll see.


Add more categories – a lot more


Most points leagues will have default settings that mirror your basic Rotisserie: points for hits, home runs, wins, saves, etc.  That’s a start, but so far you’re just trading a Pepsi for a Coke – and we want to get to the Mountain Dew.

You’ve probably heard this a hundred times: Wins are based on luck. Or: Batting average is kind of arbitrary.

If that’s the case, why are we using them for 2 of our 10 standard Rotisserie categories?

Now, I’m not saying we replace them with something like xWOBA or PLV. If a pitcher earns a win, it should count for something – same for if a hitter gets a hit. But think about it like reading a book that has the same 10 words in it, rearranged over and over, versus a novel with a full vocabulary and nuance.

So expand your categories. Throw in points for quality starts on the pitching side, and walks and sacrifices for your hitters. After all: Including additional categories means you are better capturing the actual value of a player.

You can – and should – add categories that assess negative values when players do something bad. Did your hitter just strike out? This should count against you if just a little. Did your pitcher throw a wild pitch? Same. And if your reliever blows a save? Yeah, that’s gonna hurt a bit.

Expanded categories will add volatility to your potential outcomes, and it also makes things more fun. How many times has a full slate of games resulted in an unchanged Roto batting average, or does your WHIP stay the same after a night with four starters going?

Now, picture this – it’s Sunday night and you’re in a H2H points league. You’re down by five but you each have a hitter. Your guy gets an RBI double in the first to tie it, but then the other person’s player leans into a pitch for an HBP and they take a slight lead. You’re in your last at-bat and could win it with a walk, sac fly, or any kind of base hit. Or miracles could happen and your outfielder might get an assist just when you need it.

And so on.

Another aspect of Rotisserie is you’re often trading one statistic for another. A hitter might slug a bunch of homers but have a batting average that drags you down. A pitcher might strike out a lot of batters but have a WHIP and ERA that kills you. Some might say that’s the beauty of it, but is there beauty in six months of frustration?

If you feel all these categories might get confusing, there’s good news: they all will easily compile into one easy statistic, the player’s average points per game. And while there is still some trade-off in your categories – guys that strike out a ton will not be kind – it won’t feel like you’re keeping 10 plates spinning at once.


Test your weightings


Just to repeat myself: the more categories you put in play, the better you can represent the game and all its possible outcomes. And you’ll see some unsung players shine in unexpected places.

For instance, Ty France got hit by 29 pitches last season, the highest in baseball.  Do you think he’d appreciate it if your fantasy league gave him a little credit for all that pain?  Nolan Jones threw out 19 runners from the outfield in just over 100 games – that should bump him up a few notches on the draft boards, no?

Your players will appreciate a little credit for taking one for the team

But you have to be careful because things can easily get out of whack.  Here are 10 basic principles to follow when coming up with a balanced points league system:

  1. Tinker with different categories and their values to find that elusive balance.  You’re not going to get it perfect the first time.
  2. If you change a scoring setting, see how it affects tiers of different players based on last year’s stats – your top 20 pitchers and 81-100, for instance.
  3. A good player in roto will likely be a good player in a well-tailored points league, with some exceptions.  Check whether the Juan Soto types are getting a bump on the hitting side, and the strikeout-minus-walk ratio guys are winning out on the pitching.
  4. Avoid overlapping categories, like points for extra-base hits but also points for doubles, triples, and home runs – or say for stolen bases and net steals.  Pick one or the other in these situations.
  5. Though you want to keep the math fairly simple, not every stat needs a whole number.  Sometimes little things should count for half a point, or two-tenths of a point, etc.  Just don’t get TOO crazy.
  6. Some fielding categories can probably be limited or omitted.  Note that double plays can count for your first baseman and they might rack up more than 100 through a season.  They shouldn’t get too much credit for mostly just catching the ball.
  7. Again, bad things should penalize you – if a player has a Golden Sombrero night, it should put them in the negative.
  8. Make streaming pitchers a necessity, but it has to be done well.  Picking up a bunch of awful starting pitchers each day should not be a cheat code to victory.
  9. If you’re the commissioner, involve your members and gather feedback.  Do they think a steal should be 2 points or 3?  Should you include any fielding categories like outfield assists or negative points for errors?  Throw a few questions together in a free app like Survey Monkey and send it to your peeps.
  10. If your leaguemates are skeptical, take it slow.  Add a few categories the first year and then try to sprinkle in more each season.

And always keep this in mind: the goal is to best statistically capture the value of each player on the field.


Reward greatness


There are a few remarkable achievements that can happen within a game.  A hitter might go for the cycle.  A pitcher might throw a shutout, or a No-Hitter, or even the elusive Perfect Game.

Your player – and your fantasy team – should get their kudos for these signature events, especially as some become more rarified each year.

A few other categories available on platforms worth considering: Game-winning RBI (or Walkoffs), bonuses for Grand Slams,

Imagine this: you’re down 40 points on a Sunday night, thinking you’re out of it.  But you’ve got the starter and he’s cruising through 7 perfect innings.  Your bonus points for even a shutout would take you over the top.  Your leaguemates on the Discord or group text are all chiming in, your opponent is trying all manner of jinxes, and everyone’s involved.  Isn’t that better than seeing if your last hitter – a catcher, no doubt – can save you in the Steals category?


Check your platform


The major fantasy platforms (CBS, ESPN, Yahoo) all have loads of custom scoring options and categories to choose from.  Those used to be the only game in town, but apps like FanTrax and Fantasy Pros have come along that also let you customize just about every statistic you can think of.  That said, check your league’s scoring options and make sure they have all you need.

If you’re looking for a platform, most will allow you to start a dummy league and see all the scoring options during the setup process.  Poke around and see what works best (and you’ll also have a chance to see which interface/UI you like).

When you go through platforms and start adding categories, some will suggest a default point amount.  It’s a good place to start but feel free to deviate if you think you have a better formula.


If you need help getting started


Here’s a sample setup for an expanded league.  This would net you about 700-800 points for your best hitters over a season and 600-700 for your best pitchers.

Hitting Categories Points Pitching Categories Points
Singles 1.5 Pitcher Outs .5
Doubles 3 Hits Allowed -.5
Triples 4 Earned Runs Allowed -.5
Home Runs 6 Strikeouts 1.5
HBPs .5 Walks Issued -.5
Runs 1 Wild Pitches -.3
RBIs 1 Pickoffs 2
Stolen Bases 3 Quality Starts 5
Caught Stealing -.5 Wins 8
Strikeouts -.5 Losses -4
Intentional Walks 2 Saves 6
GIDPs -.5 Blown Saves -3
Grand Slams 5 Holds 5
Hitting for Cycle 10 Hit Batters -1
Game-Winning RBI 2 Complete Games 5
OF Assists 1 Shutouts 7
Errors -.5 No Hitters 10
Fielding Double Plays .2 Perfect Games 15


But feel free to deviate however you like – part of the fun is making your league unique where you feel you have the perfect distillation of the sport in numeric form, with each player’s myriad of strengths and weaknesses captured in beautiful balance.

So best of luck in finding that elusive formula – once you go down this road, you’ll never want to come back.  And when Opening Day does come around, you’ll know your guys are getting their due no matter what they do.

Scott McDermott

Scott lives in Virginia Beach with his wife, two daughters, and a couple of furballs. When he’s not dissecting box scores and pondering over the optimal starting lineup for the Cincinnati Reds, he covers fantasy baseball for Pitcher List. He’s also the author of the award-winning book series 'Election 2064', available on Amazon.

4 responses to “Make Your League More Fun (Part 1) – Points Points Points”

  1. Regi King says:

    Sweet article!!! My favorite style.

  2. Ben says:

    We did this same exercise when switching our league from Yahoo Categories to H2H Points. One other point I would consider adding is divisions. This has spurred recurring rivalries year over year but it has also spurred division vs division debates. It’s electric.

    Here is our scoring system.


    1B Singles 1 point
    2B Doubles 2 points
    3B Triples 3 points
    BB Walks (Batters) 1 point
    CS Caught Stealing -1 point
    HP Hit by Pitch 1 point
    HR Home Runs 4 points
    KO Strikeouts (Batter) -0.5 points
    R Runs 1 point
    RBI Runs Batted In 1 point
    SB Stolen Bases 2 points
    BBI Walks Issued (Pitchers) -.75 points
    CG Complete Games 2 points
    ER Earned Runs -1.5 points
    HA Hits Allowed -.75 points
    HB Hit Batsmen -.75 points
    INN Innings 2.1 points
    K Strikeouts (Pitcher) 1 point
    L Losses -3 points
    QS Quality Starts 5 points
    S Saves 5.5 points
    W Wins 4 points

    • Scott McDermott says:

      I like the setup – my longtime league does divisions (East/West/Central) but we re-distribute them each season based on the final standings. Will talk about that in subsequent posts!

  3. iiJayBee says:

    Instead of setting up your own points system, it is a lot easier to play a format where it has already been done for you, like ottoneu.fangraphs.com

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